Body of Girl in Sunken Ferry Found on Her 18th Birthday


Hwang In-yeol and Shin Myeong-sub began sobbing before a birthday cake as they sang “Happy Birthday” to their daughter who has been missing in the cold waters since April 16. Hwang Ji-hyeon’s 51-year-old father and mother Shin, 49, have been living at a school gym in Jindo, South Korea, an auxiliary home for the families of the missing victims of the ferry Sewol that capsized six months ago.

“Happy Birthday, Ji-hyeon,” said Hwang, whose daughter’s sorrowful birthday party was attended by 14 other family members of the 10 missing victims from the tragedy. “We’ll follow you soon. Rest peacefully in heaven.”

Hours later, the rescue team lifted a decomposed body of a girl found in the sunken ferry. She was the first body to be found since the last one was recovered 195 days ago. The team notified the families that the the body, found inside a women’s bathroom of the ferry, is 5-foot-4 in height. She was wearing dark blue leggings and a red, long sleeve T-shirt underneath a life vest.

Ji-hyeon’s parents received photos of the body via their smartphones. DNA tests are underway for final confirmation, but they both confirmed that it was indeed their daughter, who would have celebrated her 18th birthday with them on Wednesday. After the rescue team said that the body will soon be transported to Hwang and Shin, they wept uncontrollably in the arms of other victim’s families.

The 6,825-ton Sewol ferry, carrying 476 people, most of whom were high school students on a field trip to Jeju Island, sank in April after failing to handle a sharp turn. Since then, the families of the missing victims have been living at a nearby school gym in Jindo, waiting desperately for more than six months to learn the fate of their loved ones. Death toll is now at 295, although nine are still missing.

“We thank and respect the rescue divers,” said the spokesperson of the missing victims’ families in a press conference after the body was found. “They revived our hopes of meeting our children for one last time.”

Featured image courtesy of